Lesson 7

Matthew 24: Jesus' Sermon on Apocalyptic Prophecy

(Matthew 24)
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Introduction: Our study of the prophecies of Daniel show that God is interested in sharing the future with His people. God's interest in this continued when He came to earth to live with us. This week we turn our attention to the prophecies that Jesus shared with His disciples. Let's explore these predictions that come directly from the lips of our Lord!

  1. The Temple


    1. Read Matthew 24:1-2. What building is Jesus discussing? (The temple in Jerusalem.)


      1. What do you understand Jesus to be saying to His disciples? (He was telling them that the most important center of worship for Jews was going to be totally destroyed.)


      2. Where have we recently discussed this in our study of the visions of Daniel? (Read Daniel 8:11-12. Remember that Daniel was sick for several days ( Daniel 8:27) when he heard about the destruction (again!)of the temple. Jesus' disciples were now hearing that same message.)


      3. How could Jesus know the future of the temple? (This is one of the faith-building aspects of prophecy. Jesus was not only familiar with the prophecies of Daniel ( Matthew 24:15), God knows the future. He shares that future with us when He thinks it will be helpful. See Amos 3:7)


    2. **Read Matthew 24:3. Does Jesus have the attention of the disciples?


      1. What do they want to know? (They want to know "when" in the future. They want to know dates, and they want to know what "signs" they will get as further warning.)


      2. What assumptions are the disciples making about the prophecy that are warranted? (They show that they understand that Jesus is coming back a second time. We have often discussed how their pre-conceived ideas mislead them as to the future. However, this makes clear they did understand that Jesus was coming again.)


      3. What assumptions are the disciples making about the prophecy that are not warranted? (They assume that if the temple in Jerusalem is destroyed, this will be the end of the world.)


        1. What lesson about interpreting prophecy do we learn from this unwarranted assumption? (Do not go beyond the prophecy. Do not "supplement" prophecy with our own assumptions.)


    3. Read Acts 1:6. What picture of the future did the disciples have in mind? (They were looking forward to political power on earth.)


      1. How could they "fit" the idea that the temple would be destroyed into their ideas of earthly power? (It boggles my mind that they could hold both of these opinions at the same time. They thought Jesus would overthrow the Romans and they would be princes of that kingdom. At the same time Jesus is telling them Jerusalem will be destroyed.)


  2. The Antidote to Deception and Fear


    1. Read Matthew 24:4. What is Jesus' goal for his disciples?


      1. The lesson suggests (Sunday, bottom) that Jesus was deliberately being unclear to His disciples because they would have been unable to stand the truth. What do you think of this suggestion? How does it sound in the light of Matthew 24:4? (I feel very uncomfortable with the notion that Jesus was either intentionally or by default confusing His disciples (for their own benefit, of course). This seems difficult to accept when Jesus stresses the importance in v. 4 of not being deceived. Frankly, they seemed plenty confused on their own without any "help" from Jesus.)


    2. Why did Jesus share this vision of the future with His disciples? If the future was too painful for them to be given a clear vision of it, why get into this topic at all? (Read Matthew 24:5-6. Jesus gives us at least two of His reasons to pull back the curtain on the future. First (v.4), He wanted to guard His disciples against being deceived. Second (v.6), He wanted to insulate them against fear.)


      1. How can a revelation of the future guard us against deception and fear?


    3. Notice that verse 5 warns the disciples about persons who impersonate Jesus. How could Jesus own disciples be deceived (v.5) by someone who said they were "the Christ?" (I am not sure how this could happen to the disciples, but the warning to us - who have not seen Jesus - is very clear. We must be extremely cautious about anyone who claims to be the returned Jesus.)


    4. Read Matthew 24:7-8. Jesus attaches a time frame to His prophecy. What is your understanding of the timing of these events when Jesus calls them (v.8) the "beginning of birth pains."


        1. Why is birth a good example? ("Birth pains" end up with new life. Jesus is simply saying that these kinds of disasters are just the beginning of the end. The good news is that Satan is active, but limited in those days, but Jesus is coming to make things new. Something good will come out of all of this bad stuff.)


  3. The Good and the Bad


    1. Read Matthew 24:9-12. Let's list those bad things that Jesus told His disciple would occur in the future. Has this happened? Will it happen in the future?


    2. I have heard Christians say that if we truly lived the way we should, the world would hate us. What do you think about the truth of that kind of statement?


      1. How does such a statement "fit" into verse 9? (Jesus made a number of statements about the world hating light and hating Him because He spoke against evil. ( John 3:20, 7:7, 15:18-19, 1 John 3:13) However, Matthew 24:9 suggests this is not the normal rule of our life. It suggests that at certain times in history this will be true and Christians will not be at fault for it. However, if you find that this is the "norm" for your life, and you are "hated" at work, perhaps you need to examine these texts and your Christian life more closely.)


    3. Read Matthew 24:13. What is Jesus prophesying about now in this verse? What comfort do you find here?(Jesus is speaking of the end of time - His Second Coming. We are comforted by His promise that if we hold on, He will save us.)


    4. Read Matthew 24:14. What is required before Jesus can come again?


    5. Read Matthew 24:15-18. Whose prophecy is Jesus quoting? ( Daniel 9:27)


      1. Is this something in the future or something in the past? (Clearly Jesus is speaking of the future destruction of the temple.)


      2. Why does Jesus give us explicit instructions about how to flee? (Eusebius reports that because Christians followed Jesus' advice, there is no evidence that a single Christian was killed in the destruction of the temple. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. lib. 3 Chapter 6.)


    6. Was the temple in Jerusalem destroyed as Jesus had predicted? (Yes, it was destroyed by Rome in the year 70 A.D. If we accept that Matthew, one of the twelve apostles, was the author of the gospel of Matthew (and the early church fathers all agreed he was), then this record of Jesus' prophecy would have been written before Jerusalem was destroyed.)


    7. Read Matthew 24:20. Why was Jesus concerned about Sabbath-keeping years after His death and resurrection? (This is additional proof of the continued (post-resurrection) importance of the Sabbath.)


  4. Preparation


    1. Read Matthew 24:43-44. What important principle of apocalyptic (end-time) prophecy do we learn here? (Jesus tells us the bottom line on prophecy is to always be ready. "Prophetic arrogance," if it causes you to delay being ready, can get you killed eternally.)


    2. Read Matthew 24:32-33. What, then, is the point of Jesus' prophecy if we still have to be ready at all times? Is there any point to studying it? (As we see things happen, we can have confidence that God is with us. God knows the future and what is happening to us at any particular time is within His understanding, if not ours. Jesus' picture of seasons lets us know that we can have a general understanding of the end-time.)


    3. How do you think the people felt to actually see Jesus' prophecy fulfilled? (It no doubt gave them greater confidence that He was the Messiah.)


  5. The Return


    1. Read Matthew 24:30-31. What is the most important part of Jesus' prophecies in Matthew 24? (That He is coming again to take us home with Him!)


    2. Friend, Jesus predicts the road may be rough for those who follow Him, but the end reward is worth it all. Will you "sign on" - today - to be one of the elect?


  6. Next week: The Child, the Church, and the Dragon: Revelation 12.

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Lessons on Great Apocalyptic Prophecies

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